Friday, October 23, 2009

Nissan to offer commercial line in 2010

Despite the sluggish economy that has sent two U.S. carmakers into bankruptcy court this year, Nissan North America Inc. will move ahead with plans to launch its first line of commercial vehicles next year, company officials said Thursday.
The vehicles, beginning with a large van based on the Nissan Titan pickup chassis, will go on sale in the fourth quarter of 2010 and will be assembled at the company's plant in Canton, Miss., said Brian Carolin, Nissan's senior vice president for sales and marketing in North America.

A concept of the vehicle was put on display in the lobby of the company's headquarters building in Franklin.

Although overall auto sales are down about 35 percent this year, "We're holding our own," Carolin said during a media briefing in Franklin. "We're not slowing down in tough times."

Besides the commitment to the commercial-vehicle rollout, Nissan also has invested heavily in its sedan lineup for 2010, including significant changes to its flagship model, the midsize Altima, which accounts for more than 50 percent of the company's U.S. sales, said John Curl, the company's senior manager for Nissan product planning.

Nissan assembles the Altima at its Smyrna and Canton plants.

The automaker also announced a major new marketing campaign for the Altima, "Quality You Can Love," based on the car's winning of the top spot among all sedans in its class in the 2009 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, a major automotive-industry benchmark.

The marketing push emphasizes the car's emotional aspects along with its quality, focusing on styling and performance, along with its reliability, Curl said. The campaign includes TV, print and online advertising.

While Nissan's year-to-date U.S. sales through September totaled just 520,410 vehicles, a 25.2 percent decline from 2008, the company has gained in its overall U.S. market share this year — now 6.7 percent, an increase of 0.1 percentage point, Carolin said.

Its share of the car market is now 8.1 percent, he said, and Nissan vehicles accounted for 8.7 percent of new-vehicle sales during the recent federal Cash for Clunkers rebate program, he said.

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